They’re stackin’ ’em in at Brentwood

Space between apartment towers off Rosser Avenue in Burnaby’s Brentwood district, looking to Gilmore

A rendering of the Shape Properties “Amazing Brentwood” development plan as published in VanCity Buzz

The City of Burnaby is on track to win an award, if it exists, for the most extreme residential densification in western Canada.

Tower development at Metrotown has leapt into an affordable rental housing zone and displaced hundreds of long-term tenants. People protesting against these “demovictions” occupied the office of Mayor Derek Corrigan in early March. At Lougheed Town Centre further east, Shape Properties has set up a site office for “The City of Lougheed”, promising 23 or more “stunning high-rise towers” in close proximity, stretching as high as 55 storeys. The same developer has started construction on “Amazing Brentwood”, depicted here, to include 11 residential towers as well as a redeveloped shopping mall and street-facing retail space. Continue reading

Demolition in a vintage rental neighbourhood

High Style Living

Five years after tower construction first jumped the Skytrain line at Metrotown, the City of Burnaby continues to enable the destruction of 1950s and ’60s era rental housing in the area.

Rick McGowan, a neighbourhood activist and townhome owner, estimates that 560 rental units have been replaced by owner-occupied condo towers, or are slated for demolition. More worrying, he says, is the fact that there is no end in sight. Continue reading

Walking in circles at Lougheed Town Centre

The Lougheed Town Centre mall with 1970s apartment towers

The Lougheed Town Centre mall with 1970s apartment towers

Who would choose a mall parking lot as a place to take a walk?

By the common definition, Lougheed Town Centre is a second-tier mall at the eastern edge of the city of Burnaby, with a Walmart and a London Drugs. Alternatively, it’s a nearby rapid transit station and a different set of parking lots. Continue reading

Accepting the shift in Burnaby Edmonds

Residential towers adjacent to the High Gate Centre, Edmonds

Residential towers at Highgate, Edmonds

With a population of 234,000, Burnaby is the third-largest city in Metro Vancouver and in British Columbia. It has no single centre. City Hall sits in science fiction isolation beside tranquil Deer Lake and its park. Commercial and residential growth is focused in “town centres,” three of which are anchored by enormous shopping malls: Brentwood, Lougheed and especially Metrotown.

Edmonds, a fourth town centre, is the runt of the litter. I travelled there to measure its shapeKingsway 3 and size in summer 2014,  landing at Greenford Ave. and setting out along the south side of  Kingsway. Other than a block of shops on the north side, Kingsway seemed kind of a mess, mixing automotive lots with ageing towers.

I held out hope that Edmonds Street, narrower and quieter, would offer  more charm. Edmonds and Kingsway was the site of the first Burnaby municipal hall, built in 1899 when this was still a rural district. Edmonds Street, five kilometres east of Metrotown, has some of the makings of a village shopping street, supported by decent public transit and a stock of nearby walk-up apartment buildings. Continue reading

METROTOWN

Kingsway, looking west from Nelson, Burnaby, B.C.Metrotown, a square-mile precinct in the City of Burnaby, was conceived as a zone of medium-to-high density development. It’s well-served by transit, has a huge variety of services within a walkable radius, and an ethnically diverse population of 25,000 or more. Its arterial streets and indoor shopping don’t warm my heart, but who knows what tomorrow may bring?

The city’s area plan describes Metrotown as “a town centre serving the southeast quadrant” of a municipality of 225,000. This is too modest. Metrotown’s key property, The Metropolis at Metrotown, is Canada’s second-largest enclosed shopping centre, with vast caverns of free parking and rapid transit lines stopping at the door.  The Metrotowers are home to the regional government and regional transportation authorities. Transit service and a location just outside the City of Vancouver have made the precinct a magnet for towers; it is currently booming, perhaps the most active site for property development in the Lower Mainland. Continue reading

Hoping for the best in the Heights

The Heights village in Burnaby grew up along a streetcar line that was built during the Canadian land boom and crash of 1911-1912.  Great history, and some great little shops, some dating from the Italian immigration of the 1940s and 50s.  I’m sure people have fond memories of this place; I feel regret in producing reasons why it doesn’t seem to work as well as it could.

The nature of the building fronts is patchy, with a few moderately brutal 1970s and 1980s blocks. The City of Burnaby revised and strengthened  its plan for the section of Hastings Street between Boundary to Willingdon in 1992.  The village designation was extended four blocks to the east in 2008.  The key principle is to encourage mixed-use development on Hastings, with housing up and retail down.  But one street does not a village make; Albert Street, one block north, is part of the village plan, and it offers some housing choices, and there is a fine library and recreation centre close by, but otherwise the area streets seem frozen in single-family detached mode. Continue reading